Category

Peace Corps Namibia

Category

Note to readers…

Hello world,

I haven’t been very good at keeping up with my blog. I wanted to use it as a platform to share my experience, but it ended up becoming a source of anxiety. Before joining Peace Corps, I was told I would have so much free time and I’d have so many opportunities to get in touch with myself, reflect, do whatever it is people do when they have a lot of free time while going off the grid. I didn’t realise that everyone’s experiences in Peace Corps are different and we get to choose how we use our time and what we invest our energy in. So once I arrived at site and started getting involved in projects, I began to feel overwhelmed with my responsibilities and the unwavering mentality that I was failing to keep up with everything on my plate thus resulting in my own personal failure as a person and Volunteer. The blog I created specifically to share my experiences and use as a creative outlet became another stressor, which I quickly put on the back burner.

We waited two hours for our bus to get a new tire. Just an example of wanting things to go one way and having to actively change my mindset about some of the situations I find myself in.

Although it has been a long time since I’ve written and I’m closer to the end of my service than the beginning, I would like to start share my experiences and stories. I have learned so much since I arrived in Namibia back in August 2017. I have accomplished more than I thought would be possible. I have changed for the better in many ways. My life feels richer and fuller and I want to share all of it with you. I hope to do this in an authentic and open way, while best representing the United States, Namibia, and myself in a thoughtful way. I may have experienced many challenges here, but I don’t want to give the impression that my time in Namibia has been anything less than remarkable and life changing.

Thank you for continuing to visit my blog and I hope to share my Peace Corps story with you over the last few months of my service. I love hearing from anyone who takes the time to look at my blog and I appreciate having human interactions that I otherwise wouldn’t have. If you have any questions or just want to have a conversation, leave comments, email me, send me DMs on Instagram. I’d love to hear from you.

Sending love and positivity to you, wherever you are.

Grace.

My Ideal Packing List for Peace Corps Namibia

Hi everyone,

This post is to give suggestions for those who have been accepted into Peace Corps Namibia and are beginning to pack for service here.

There are some things I wish I had known before coming to Namibia. First, you can buy just about everything you need  here, such as: shampoo and conditioner (Treseme, Pantene, John Frieda are some examples), contact solution (Opti Free, Renu, Biotrue, and Clean Care), Q-tips, clothes (especially in Windhoek and other towns), etc. Also, in regards to anything medical, you can get most things from PCMO, like sunscreen (not waterproof), floss, condoms, mosquito repellant, chapstick, bandaids, vitamins, etc.  Also, the water here is pretty okay to drink, but Peace Corps still provides water filters and iodine tablets (useful if you are hiking Fish River). They also provide a mosquito net and a green trunk that can be locked. You can get everything you really need here or sent in a care package later, so don’t stress about forgetting something.

Luggage & Travel Items: 

  • 2 Rolling Suitcases
  • 65 L Backpack – I was able to use this for my carry-on, but for South African Airlines, the weight limit for a carry-on is 18 Ib. I would recommend getting a large backpack for traveling; it makes life so much easier.
  • 1 Crossbody bag
  • North Face Jester Backpack
  • REI Compressible Sleeping Bag – I highly suggest bringing a sleeping bag that is compressible– it’s easier to travel with and I actually use it pretty frequently when I stay with other volunteers or at night when it gets cold.
  • Sleeping Pad – Helpful for when you visit other volunteers or go camping.
  • Microfibre Towel
  • Neck Pillow

Clothing: 

  • 2 pairs of black work pants and 1 pair of navy
  • 2 Pairs of Jeans
  • 1 Pair of Flowy Pants
  • 2 Pairs of Leggings
  • 1 Maxi Skirt
  • 2 Pencil Skirts (my favourite skirts are from Mr Price here)
  • 1 Pair of Yoga Pants
  • 1 Sweat Shirt or Fleece
  • 3 Cardigans
  • 3 Sweaters
  • 2 Long sleeves
  • 1 Maxi Dress
  • 1 Business Dress
  • 2 Casual Dresses
  • 1 Military Green Cargo Jacket
  • 1 Rain Coat
  • Lightweight Insulated Jacket – It is cold during winter and it’s awesome if you visit Swakop.
  • 4 Tank Tops (I bought more at Mr Price and Cotton On)
  • ~ 10 Shirts that can be worn casually and for work
  • 2 Scarves
  • 4 Bras
  • 2 Sports Bras
  • ~25 Pairs of Underwear
  • 1 Baseball Hat
  • 1 Beanie
  • 1 Necklace
  • 8 Pairs of Earrings (Purchased some at Nam Craft and in Cape Town)
  • 1 Watch – I wear this everyday to keep track of time during class
  • 1 Pair of Chacos 
  • 1 Pair of Burkenstocks 
  • Shower Flip Flops
  • 1 Pair of Running Shoes
  • 1 Pair of Ballet Flats (I’ve purchased two more pairs at Cotton On and Mr Price)
  • 1 Pair of Vans

Electronics: 

Toiletries (Just my favourites):

Miscellaneous: 

  • Tea Tree Oil – Not something you would typically think of, but I was placed somewhere with bed bugs and it was the only thing that helped. I made a solution of ~20 drops of tea tree oil and water in a spray bottle and sprayed my sheets, comforter, bed frame, and then I would put tea tree oil in my lotion so they wouldn’t bite me. (Oils can be purchased in country though)
  • Hammock – I’d never used a hammock before Peace Corps, but it is amazing when you want to relax… especially, when you are exhausted and have breaks at camps.
  • Insulated Bag & Ice Packs – After grocery shopping, it takes about an hour to get a hike to my village and then 2+ hours traveling back to village, so having the ability to transport my groceries without them completely defrosting is helpful. (Could be sent in a care package)
  • Hydro Flask Water Bottle – Amazing when you want cold water in the summer.
  • Travel Cutlery
  • Nalgene
  • Hydro Flask Travel Coffee Mug – Amazing when you want coffee as you walk to school. (** This ended up leaking a few months into service, so I had someone send me a Klean Kanteen that has been great)
  • Ziploc bags
  • 1 Umbrella
  • 2 Books (1984 and The Alchemist) and Journal/Notebooks – I like pretty nice journals and notebooks, but they’re really hard to find here. I ended up getting about 3 in Cape Town.
  • Office Supplies – My favourite pens and pencils. Markers and coloured pencils for my learners.
  • PICTURES! My sister sent me a Photo Frame for them and it made site feel homey, but you can also print in country.
  • Tapestry – You know, homeyness.
  • Kitchen Knives from Target (3)
  • Packing Tape
  • String – Helpful for putting up mosquito nets and various other reasons.

Snacks:

  • Cliff bars, M&Ms, Beef Jerky, and Reeses – I think the reason for these is pretty obvious.

Gifts for Host Families: 

  • You’ll need gifts for your families during PST and CBT! I brought my polaroid and took pictures with my families to give them. I brought chocolates and many items with San Francisco on them.

 

This is everything I can think of, but of course, there are items on the list that might be missing or not necessary for everyone.

Hope this helps with packing and as always, feel free to reach out whether it is through my blog or social media. Happy packing!

10 Things You Need to Know About Doing PC in Namibia

I arrived in Namibia during mid-August and have learned so much in the short amount of time I have lived here. I have completed my training, become an official volunteer, moved to site, and began teaching.

Here’s a list of a few things I have picked up along the way:

  1. You must greet everyone! Namibians actually stop to say hello and greet one another rather than just casually smiling and waving. If you greet in the local language, many people will just be impressed that you are trying to learn their language. This will help with integrating with your colleagues and at site.
  2. You will eat a lot of meat and carbs. No meal is complete without meat and a salad will almost always have mayo and sugar in it. For anyone living in the region of Kavango, fish and pap is a favourite and will become yours.
  3. Training will sometimes be exhausting and overwhelming—trust me, you’ll make it! There’s always teatime and many things to look forward to, which will make it easier to get through each day. Once you get to Phase Two or site, you’ll have some more free time to develop your addiction to cool drink (soda) and spend a lot of time with your external hard drive.
  4. The term “hiking” has two meanings here. It is often used to describe how people get around in Namibia. In many of the towns or Windhoek (the only actual city in Namibia), there are designated hike points where you find a group of people to carpool with, think of it almost like Uber Pool. When leaving my village, I have to go out to the tar road and wave down a car to catch a ride. Sounds pretty scary, but it is very much engrained in the culture since not everyone has a car and is the only way to get around.
  5. Be prepared for the cold and the heat. It gets pretty chilly in the winter and summers will be ridiculously hot. Tip: you can soak a shirt, put it in your freezer, and then wear it front of your fan OR sleep with a frozen water bottle. You’re welcome.
  6. You’ll learn how to deal with critters. I have encountered snakes, a spider the size of my hand, and scorpions at site. Be prepared to either cohabitate, run (unless it’s a black mamba), or kill it.
  7. You will learn patience, flexibility, and accept that you probably have no idea what is happening. These skills will carry you through training and service. Plans will change quicker than you can actually make them. You will learn the difference between “now” that could mean minutes or hours later and “now now,” which actually means now… or now-ish. I say, “everything is fine. I am fine, ” a few times a week and you will learn how to work with whatever circumstances you find yourself in.
  8. Don’t stress packing. You’ll be able to buy a lot of things here and have a few things sent to you in packages, so don’t worry too much about leaving a few things behind.
  9. Get out of your comfort zone. Ask questions and keep an open mind. Try things you normally would not do. There’s a lot to learn and experience here! The different cultures and languages you’ll experience may challenge you in many ways, but you’ll learn what it really means to integrate and live in a way that goes beyond what you are used to.
  10. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer is challenging and rewarding. Honestly, you probably won’t be able to imagine everything you will experience here until you get here. There is so much change you have to adapt to and then so many small challenges that you can experience (possibly all at once)—it can all become a little overwhelming. However, there are so many good things. You’ll meet amazing people, travel, work on so many secondary projects, focus on your primary project, and develop relationships with your learners (for education volunteers).

Exciting news! After being in Namibia for over five months, I finally moved into my home! I’ll make sure to post about my traditional house soon! Sorry for not posting more often! I wish I could post weekly, but my village doesn’t get very good network and any place with WiFi is a 2-5 hour “hike” away. For those who are waiting for their interviews or invites, good luck! Hope to see you in Namibia!

This blog does not reflect the views of and is not associated with Peace Corps, any of its staff or volunteers, or the United States Government. 

The Life of a Peace Corps Trainee

For those of you who are applying to Peace Corps and being considered for Namibia in the education sector, this is what a typical day of training looked like for my group. During training, you will learn an incredible amount of material related to culture, language, and how to be a teacher in Namibia. I hope this helps give people an idea of what to expect and alleviates any fears for those who might be nervous about not having much experience– trust me, you will learn or figure it out along the way!

Pre-service Training: August 16-September 15, October 6-19

5:30 – Wakeup, get dressed, eat breakfast, do last minute language review
6:50 – Walk to pick up point
7:00 – Head to training center
7:20 – Arrive at center. On MWF, we begin at 7:30 for morning assembly and then singing. On TThSat, we begin at 8:00 so we have some free time for coffee, hanging out, studying, etc.
8:00-10:00 – Language Training
10:00-10:30 – Tea Time!
10:30-12:30 – Technical sessions covering various topics such as culture, history, classroom management, teaching methods, medical, etc.
12:30-1:30 – Lunch
1:30-3:00 – more technical sessions
3:00-3:15 – Break
3:15-4:30 – Technical
4:30-5:30 – On TTh, there is free time to hangout, exchange TV shows and movies, etc.
4:30/5:30-end of day – Head home for dinner with host family, studying, and sleeping

Community Based Training: September 15-October 6

4:20 – Wakeup, make breakfast, prepare last-minute teaching materials
6:00 – Pick up time
6:30 – Get to school and begin training
7:00-12:00 – Observe (Week 1), Co-teach (Week 2), Teach (Week 3) at least nine periods per week
12:00-1:00 – Lunch break for consulting with teachers, going over observations, and reviewing how co-teaching/teaching went
1:00-4:00 – Technical training
4:00 – Leave school and either head to the shopping center or to my host-family’s house. Rest of the night consists of bonding with family, cooking, watching movies or TV, marking, lesson planning, and lots of sleeping.

Good luck to the next group of applicants! Hope to see you in Namibia!

** I would like to note that the training for Education Volunteers has changed since I went through training and may not be what new trainees experience

This blog does not reflect the views of and is not associated with Peace Corps, any of its staff or volunteers, or the United States Government. 

The Peace Corps Interview

Congratulations! If you are reading this, you have probably made it to the interview process of the Peace Corps. You most likely have waited a few months to get to this point and it is all very exciting, but a little daunting at the same time. That is normal. Although I have many friends who “winged” their interviews, I prepared a lot– I get nervous, so I wanted to make sure I wasn’t stumbling through and being prepared takes some of the stress off. Below are tips that will hopefully prepare you for this next step and some questions I was asked (maybe worded a little differently).

List of Tips

  1. Be professional and look the part. It will most likely be over webcam, dress as if you were going to any other job interview. You’ll have to dress in business attire during Peace Corps Training, so if you can’t dress appropriately for the interview, will you actually be able to dress professionally if you get through? Plus, looking nice will give you a boost of confidence and help you act in a professional manner.
  2. Do some research. Here’s a short version of the notes I prepared (Peace Corps Interview Notes). You should have an idea of the Core Expectations, the position you applied for (should be in the email they sent you, this was mine Namibia Project Description), and knowledge about the country you are being considered for. This is the time to impress them! Show that you took initiative and are serious about this position. Read lots of blogs, watch videos, know a little bit about the culture.
  3. Go over some of the questions. I wanted to make sure  I had specific examples of experiences that I could use in my answers and then elaborate on. I also tried to connect those experiences to the Core Expectations or anything else Peace Corps.
  4. Be early and take a breath. The interview is Eastern Standard Time, so keep that in mind when scheduling your interview. Also, I would sign on early to make sure nothing goes wrong, you have time to relax, and then you don’t want to make the interviewer wait for you.
  5. Be yourself! They genuinely want to know why you are passionate about Peace Corps. Be honest, no matter how cheesy you may sound.
  6. Ask questions. You can ask general questions, but if you are able to ask a few more specific questions, it shows you took the time to think about them. An example of a question I had was, “What secondary projects did you work on? How did you come up with them?” Most Returned Peace Corps Volunteers don’t mind being a resource of knowledge for you and sharing their experiences. Plus, it may make you more memorable, which couldn’t hurt.

List of Questions

Section 1

  1. Why do you want to join the Peace Corps?
  2. Why do you want to serve in the education sector?
  3. Why do you want to serve in (country)?
  4. Would you be willing to serve in other parts of the world and sectors?
  5. If so, what countries of sectors?

Section 2

  1. Tell me about a time you had to adapt to living or working with people from another culture? Have you stayed in touch or visited them?
  2. Tell me about the most meaningful situation you have experienced helping others. What motived you?
  3. Tell me about the most challenging experience you’ve had working on a team.
  4. Tell me about a time when you were able to transfer knowledge or skills to others. Walk me through your lesson plan. What challenges did you face?
  5. Tell me a challenge you with little support.
  6. Tell me about a stressful time in your life. How did you cope?

Section 3

  1. Topics covered: Exposure to different foods, health issues, possibility of living without electricity and/or water, less privacy, geographic isolation, gender roles, minority challenges, lack of access to your religion, alcohol, and maybe even ask about any relationships (Are you ready to be away from them?).
  2. Do you have any questions for the Interviewer?

Good luck with your Peace Corps interview! I believe in you!

 

This blog does not reflect the views of and is not associated with Peace Corps, any of its staff or volunteers, or the United States Government. 

Next Stop: Staging and Namibia

After months of medical appointments, dozens of Amazon packages, hours spent packing, and last minute trips to Target; I was finally about to begin my Peace Corps journey. I left my house at three in the morning to catch my six O’clock flight to Phoenix and then to Philly. I was accompanied to the airport by my best friend, sister, and parents. We said our goodbyes, cried a lot, and made many people uncomfortable—truly a great start to any adventure.

After flying across the country, I touched down in Philly and found a few other people at baggage claim who also looked like they had packed for the next two years. We arrived at the hotel, dropped our bags in our pre-assigned rooms, and then headed to registration.

Once everyone had checked-in, forty-six people congregated into a conference room where we played a quick ice breaker followed by a few announcements. Eventually, we were dismissed for dinner where we proceeded to walk around in circles looking for a good place to eat. There were about fifteen of us seated in the middle of a restaurant with multiple conversations happening all at once and lots of laughter.

The next day was a blur of ice breakers, acting out scenarios, group work, and going through polices, procedures, and core expectations. Our day of training was followed by a quick trip to the Liberty Bell and lots of pizza—I was committed to indulging in my favorite foods before our final flight to Namibia. Once we were finished with dinner, we headed back to the hotel where many of us, including myself, decided to stay up since checkout was promptly at two in the morning.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We divided into groups, boarded two different buses, and eventually arrived at JFK around five. We planted our large group in the middle of the airport waiting until we could actually check-in. Some people slept. Some conversed. I was one of the people who was still trying to get my luggage to meet the weight requirements. A few hours later, we made it to our gate where we waited some more, and then boarded our fifteen-hour flight to Johannesburg. Once we landed, we began our six-hour layover, which allowed us to eat, grab coffee, and get dressed into our business casual clothing. The next flight was a breeze and before we knew it, we were already in Namibia. We waited to get through customs, turned in our WHO cards to PC staff on the other side, and then grabbed our luggage. We were then welcomed outside by Resource Volunteers and staff—given cool drink (soda) and a fat cake. We had finally arrived in the Land of the Brave.

This blog does not reflect the views of and is not associated with Peace Corps, any of its staff or volunteers, or the United States Government. 

My Peace Corps Timeline

1/1/17 – Peace Corps Application submitted along with resume and motivational statement

1/3/17 – Health History Form submitted

  • Took two days to complete— there are many parts to this and the website was a little slow

1/3/17 – Received list of potential countries I could serve in based off of my Health History Form and asked to complete Soft Skills Questionnaire

  • Based on the list of countries you are eligible for, you can choose your top three choices and/or check a box that says you will serve anywhere you are needed
  • I researched all 43 countries listed and ultimately chose Rwanda, Namibia, and then South Africa and checked the box to serve anywhere
  • The Soft Skills Questionnaire takes about 15 minutes – You are given about 40-50 characteristics and you have to prioritize which are the most important and least important in three steps

1/27/17 – Consideration for Namibia Email

2/2/17 – Skills Addendum

2/7/17 – Received email to set up interview

2/16/17 – Interview!

  • This is Eastern Standard Time
  • Took lots of notes to prepare for the interview, such as Core Expectations, description of position, Namibia’s culture and history, and potential questions with answers

2/17/17 – Received invitation to officially join the Peace Corps as a Secondary Education English Teacher in Namibia

  • You have 3 days to accept your invitation!!!

Between receiving my invitation and leaving for my staging event in Philadelphia, I had to get medically and legally cleared, complete courses online, complete tasks, etc. It’s a long process with moments of uncertainty, but very worth it!

Good luck with your Peace Corps endeavors!

This blog does not reflect the views of and is not associated with Peace Corps, any of its staff or volunteers, or the United States Government. 

Applying to the Peace Corps

If you are considering applying to the Peace Corps, hopefully, explaining my experience throughout the application process will be helpful for you. I applied hoping to be considered, but was nervous I may not have the necessary background or skills to actually be a serious candidate. I applied anyway and would suggest doing so for anyone with similar concerns– the worse thing that can happen is being told “no”, but it is better to find out than to not try at all. Plus, you can always try again later on.

The Application 

The application itself is relatively easy and should take about an hour according to the website. However, the motivational statement and resume will set you back a few hours if you have not already prepared them. I would highly recommend doing a little research before attempting these parts, such as Peace Corps sample resumes (this is important) and what you might want to include in your motivational statement.

The Resume 

Look up samples! Research what your resume should look like and contain. My resume was a glorious three pages, beginning with “Qualifying Skills”, “Professional Experience”, “Education”, “Specialized Skills”, and ending with “International Travel”. I decided that showing where I had traveled would be important because it demonstrated that I am adventurous and like experiencing new places that may have different cultures, ideologies, etc.

Three pages seems like a lot, but the Peace Corps wants to get an idea of who you are. They want to know how many hours you spent tutoring kids in math during high school– Really! I was asked to complete a Skills Addendum Form, which basically asks questions that identify whether you are actually qualified for that position or not. When I received the email to complete this, my initial response was panic and I thought my Peace Corps dream had come to an end so early on in the process. However, I reached out to a recruiter via email and he was nice enough to call me with some suggestions that proved to be really helpful (otherwise, I probably wouldn’t be where I am now). I completed the Skills Addendum and sent in an updated resume with how many hours I spent doing certain tasks; for example, “Tutored foreign exchange students in English (5 cumulative hours)”.

Motivational Statement

While I was preparing to write my motivational statement, I read a few blogs/samples and then researched the Peace Corps’ Core Expectations, their mission, and global initiatives. I wanted my statement to represent my passion for service and desire to make positive change in the lives of others, while showing that I had taken the initiative to learn about how the Peace Corps plays a part in the world. My motivational statement is included below and may be semi-cheesy, but I’d rather risk sounding cheesy than not showing how much I wanted to be a part of the Peace Corps.

My Motivational Statement

Since I was ten, I have always wanted to do big things in this world– I even told my best friend that I was going to be Oprah when I grew up. She was brilliant and successful, but I was most impressed when I watched a news special about the school she had built for girls in Africa. When I was graduating from high school, I was asked to write about my future profession and this was when I first wrote about my desire to finish college and then join the Peace Corps as a teacher. Oprah knew what a valuable tool having an education was and I saw the Peace Corps as my opportunity to give that to others.

Now that I have completed college, my desire to join the Peace Corps is just as powerful as it was when I wrote about my future profession. My reasons for joining have expanded, but the initial desire to do good is still strong. One of my biggest motivators is the desire to enact change and add positivity to the lives of others. I am careful with how I word wanting to help others because sometimes the intent is good, but it can also lead you to believe that another person’s way of life needs to be changed if it differs from your own thoughts or initial beliefs. My goal is to fully immerse myself in the culture of the community and to work with them and their children in hopes of building bright futures for them all. I hope my presence and joining the community led solutions will influence how education for adolescent girls is viewed and make education more accessible to them.

Education is very important to me and I recognize that the work required of a Peace Corps volunteer cannot be completed in a short period of time and that I must be present for the allotted amount of time. To improve the quality of life people, I understand that there are steps I must go through in order to be successful. Establishing rapport with the local community and the students takes time and I must act in a professional manner to best represent the Peace Corps, the United States, and myself. In order to fulfill my role in as a teacher, I know that I must also be a student when I am learning from the local people and show my respect for their beliefs.

Joining the Peace Corps has been a dream that has followed me since high school and I hope that I will have the opportunity to actually do it. I hope to influence positive change in the lives of others I come in contact with and leave a lasting impression. What I really admire about the role of an educator is the fact that they get to work with children who have infinite possibility and will have the power to shape their own future as individuals and as a community.

https://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/is-peace-corps-right-for-me/peace-corps-volunteer/core-expectations-peace-corps-volunteers/
https://www.peacecorps.gov/about/
https://www.peacecorps.gov/about/global-initiatives/

This blog does not reflect the views of and is not associated with Peace Corps, any of its staff or volunteers, or the United States Government.